Ice climbing, art history, government shakedowns, nothing that Clint Eastwood or the characters he portrays should ever be associated with. The Eiger Sanction, naturally, offers all three in one tightly wound two-hour spectacle. Quite the heavy hand is needed to make this formation work, and although Eastwood sees himself stood in front of and behind the camera with such prominence once again, the feel of The Eiger Sanction is not at all startling or engaging. Dark pasts and new beginnings collide with inevitable force as Eastwood adapts something that feels rather similar to the workings of James Bond and Raiders of the Lost Ark. These are definite coincidences, but there is no shaking the feeling they create, and how poorly Eastwood adapts himself to it.
At least the violence and shadowy subterfuge is intact. They are at least grounded in a love for the spy genre. That much is clear. Eastwood feels like the sketch marks of Henry Jones. The nice suits, the glasses, the persona that feels so far away from who this professor actually embodies. Even his students adore him and fawn over him. Had it been any darker, then the pangs of Play Misty for Me would soon approach. But that would ruin the mood, surely. As his class erupts into applause and Eastwood, cool as ever, saunters down the hallways, there is still a persistent image and tone that Eastwood takes. Even when he is to portray a professor of nerdy proportions, he still manages to ooze charisma. It is not from his performance this time, it is instead from who he surrounds himself with, and what they say to him.
Hemlock is not likeable, though. He is meant to produce those caring notes and pair them with the sinister inevitabilities of a man out for blood. Eastwood doesn’t quite get that balance right, and instead, there’s an odd, sleazy wave washing over Hemlock’s characteristics. What a waste. The Eiger Sanction has some startlingly good moments to it, but they are seeped deep in unfitting music, odd changes of pace and a leading man whose likeability deconstructs the very notion of hard-hitting assassinations paired with a deep love for art history. Few can pull that blend off. Harrison Ford doesn’t count. His turn as Indiana Jones didn’t have him become a hired gun while also marking up the value of priceless artefacts or paintings. Jonathan Hemlock (Eastwood) comes out of retirement to deal with some terror here and some misuse there.
Lighter, looser and far more forgettable than the other works Eastwood would make during this decade, The Eiger Sanction is a romp through a variety of locations with no end in sight. Brief flutters of fun are the best offer Eastwood and company can make here, and it is too little too late when Hemlock, art historian, assassin and all-around cool guy, starts chewing the scenery and taking up our time. Fascinatingly dense, and sometimes it feels as though there is no thought or plot at all. That is where The Eiger Sanction thrives, though. Its complete lack of placement in anything relevant or calculable. He gets the girl, beats the guy, and for whatever reason does it to the backdrop of some severely depressing, well-choreographed scenes of the humdrum and dreary life. It is a shame Hemlock is not affected by the same, for it would make The Eiger Sanction feel like some shoddy take on a forgotten John le Carré novel.